The Gift of a Memory
I love how sometimes a familiar smell or the sight of a random object will bring back a long-held memory that plays out with exquisite familiarity.
This week the sight of Chinese Lanterns brought a special memory back to me.
I was at the craft store looking for something fallish to put in a big vase that sits on the mantle in the family room. I had found some great twisty branches that had fallen from a willow tree during a storm earlier in the week and I needed to add something for color to bring the whole look together.
I walked through the aisles of silk and dried flowers and had almost given up when I saw two long stems of Chinese Lanterns.
They are a perennial plant that is a bit rare. They bloom with beautiful orange lantern-shaped hollow pods this time of year. If you look, you can sometimes see them growing along the roadside in the midst of Pussy Willows and high fall grasses.
I pulled the two remaining stems from the display to take to the register and a memory came back to me that played out like a little movie in my head.
My son was five. He rode the bus home from school at lunch time every day.
His sister and I would watch from the front windows for him to return. He was a different little boy. A big nature lover. He liked to play alone in the fields near our house. Friends could come along, but he didn't really play with them as much as with the frogs and snakes he would find and bring home like trophies.
One day he came off the bus and told me about some flowers he had been seeing in the ditch along the road on the bus ride to and from school. He said he had been "watching" them all week to remember where they were so that he could take me there to show them to me. He was sure I would love them and want to bring some home.
This was the day he was sure he knew how to find them and he insisted we get in the car right then and drive to where they were. Curious, but a little annoyed that he wouldn't wait until after lunch, I buckled his sister in her booster seat and the three of us set off on our search.
About half-way to school he pointed excitedly to an embankment on the right side of the road where a stand of bright orange flowers stood out among the grasses and thistles.
"Pawk the caw!" he yelled. Thewe they awe mom! Aun't they pwetty?
And they were. They were really beautiful.
We cut a bunch and took them home. I saved some seeds and planted them but they never took.
I think they meant to stay on that roadside, shocking in their unfamiliarity, for another special little boy to notice one day on his way home from school.